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Irans Erbe in Flugbildern von Georg Gerster, eds. David Stronach & Ali Mousavi, Verlag Philipp von Zabern, Mainz am Rhein, 2009.
This fabulously produced book is a significant work for those interested in Iranian archaeology, urban history and pictographic journey covering ancient and medieval sites. The book’s showcase is the pictures taken by Georg Gerster between 1976 and 1978 which are now accompanied by important articles on the various aspects of Iran’s archaeological and architectural history.
The editors are two noted archaeologists, David Stronach of the University of California, Berkeley and Ali Mousavi, Curator of Ancient Near East at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The book is has a forward and introduction by the editors and six chapters by: T.J. Wilkinson entitled “Earth and Water” (Erde und Wasser) dealing with Iran’s nature and the plateau’s landmass. A. Mousavi and W.M. Sumner survey the early remains of Iranian civilization (5000-2000 BCE); D. Stronach writes on the major remains of the great imperial master builders, the Elamites, Medes, Achaemenids and the Parthian (Baumeister der Zeitalter). A. Mousavi covers the monumental architecture of the Islamic period till the 20th century, while M. Harverson and E. Beazley deal with native Persian architecture (Einheimische Architektur), and is followed by a postscript by G. Gerster, the photographer.
The chapter that is of significance for the Sasanian Empire is by Dietrich Huff, the expert archaeologist of the field. His chapter entitled “Prince, Fortresses and Fire-temples. The Sasanian Empire 224-651 CE” [Fürsten, Festungen und Feuertempel. Das Sassanidische Imperium (224-651 n. chr.)], is a major contribution to the field. The essay by Huff is a fresh reexamination of the major monuments of late antique Iran with great bibliographical references. The other important contribution is the aerial pictures of archaeological sites and monuments. While most of them still remain and have been studied, others have been destroyed because of the Iran-Iraq War. For example one can point to the Eivan-e Karkheh photo which provides us with a great overhead view, as well as the rarely seen Qasr-e Shiri site from the air.
There are three exquisite photos and a diagram of the Sasanian fire-temple at Takht-e Suleyman, sacked by the Byzantine Emperor, Heraclius in the seventh century CE. One of the images are included here to demonstrate the beauty of the photographs taken by Gerster.
I very much hope to see the English version of the book so that it could be used by those in the US, UK and the English speaking world.